English as a second language
Is English your second language?
For many of us, English is not our first language. We had to learn it at school or maybe later in life when we started working, and that puts us a step behind in the working rat race where English is by default the main language.
I learned it as a teenager and failed my first biology exam: while the other kids (native English speakers) were focusing on writing their answers, I was trying to translate the questions in my head and couldn’t finish on time. I had to put the extra effort to learn both biology and English and didn’t fail an exam again.
I still have an accent today, but I have read a lot, written a lot and watched a lot of TV series in English (hello Games of Thrones!), and I don’t need to translate in my head anymore. I recently started talking at Podcasts and TV shows as a speaker and my accent is no longer an issue. In fact, I embrace it as it’s a little wink to my Latina origins.
Language and bias
I will admit I still have a positive bias towards native speakers: in a group setting, I tend favour the ideas of the native speakers, just because they might phrase them more eloquently, as English is their first language. I am very aware of this now and try to reset the button and make sure I assess ideas and not language skills.
If you have an accent too, kudos to you!
Kudos to you for learning a foreign language, for overcoming the fear of sounding ridiculous in public, for putting your hand up and speaking out, even if you might use the wrong words, for working on your accent to make sure you are understood, for translating in your head while trying to follow the conversation.
Yes, you are starting the race a step behind, but with work and perserverance, you will be able to catch up with the rest of the pack.
If you ever listen to the Apple quarterly earnings call with the press (ex Apple girl here), Tim Cook always presents together with Apple’s CFO Luca Maestri. Their presentation, as you can imagine is flawless and guess what…Luca has the strongest (and nicest) Italian accent!
So next time you think your accent will stop you from chasing your dream, think twice!